Warning that Norfolk’s out of hours service could become ‘unsafe’ as burnt-out GPs struggle with increased demands

Dr Tim Morton, chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee, and a GP in Beccles.

Dr Tim Morton, chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee, and a GP in Beccles. - Credit: Archant

The county's out of hours GP service could be bordering on 'unsafe', it has been warned, as burnt-out doctors struggle to cope with increasing workloads.

Norfolk County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee yesterday heard from Tim Morton, chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee and a GP in Beccles.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: 'GPs are working 12, 14 hours and as a consequence they are not in a safe and fit position to work the out of hours shift.

'It means we have a service which is verging on potentially being unsafe and unsustainable.'

He said that doctors easing the strain in other departments, such as at the urgent care centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and a lack of GPs coming into the industry means stretched resources are having to go further than ever, leading to problems with 'recruitment and retention'.


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'We are seeing more and more doctors that are burnt out,' he said. 'There are different positions competing for time and the out of hours surgery has suffered.'

Mr Morton said he had been told this weekend would be understaffed, but said that it could be a familiar picture in the coming months.

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When asked about a potential solution, he said: 'I would like to see greater funding for primary care - it forms arguably the most valuable parts of the NHS system and it needs to be protected. Younger doctors coming into the work need to be encouraged, as at the moment we are putting people off coming into primary care.'

Lorraine Gray, interim chief executive of IC24, which runs Norfolk's out of hours service, said that 'out of hours services are under the same recruitment and retention pressures as GPs are in hours'.

'However, I would like to reassure our patients that we have good clinical cover this weekend and we are working extremely hard with our commissioners to maintain this for our patients,' she added.

Robert Morton, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service, also spoke at the meeting, painting a similar picture at the trust.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said that the comments were 'hugely concerning'.

He said: 'What will be shocking to most is the complete inaction of the government to intervene and do something to address the chronic under-funding of our NHS to provide it with the resources it needs to attract good quality doctors committed to Norwich and Norfolk.'

Do you have a health story for us? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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